Living Bird Magazine
Eastern Wood-PeweeContopus virens
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Tyrannidae
The olive-brown Eastern Wood-Pewee is inconspicuous until it opens its bill and gives its unmistakable slurred call: pee-a-wee!—a characteristic sound of Eastern summers. These small flycatchers perch on dead branches in the mid-canopy and sally out after flying insects. Though identifying flycatchers can be confusing, pewees are grayer overall, with longer wings, than other flycatchers. They lack the eyerings of the Empidonax species, while they’re less brown (with stronger wingbars) than a phoebe. With a careful look they’re quite distinctive.More ID Info
Find This Bird
The Eastern Wood-Pewee’s plaintive song of three sliding notes (pee-a-weeeee) is distinctive and easy to learn. It makes finding these woodland birds fairly straightforward. It helps that male Eastern Wood-Pewees are inveterate singers, belting out song nearly throughout the day. Look for small, olive-colored birds making sallies and watch such birds until they perch; Eastern Wood-Pewees pause frequently after sallying, which usually enables you to study them well.
- Pibí Oriental (Spanish)
- Pioui de l'Est (French)
Like other flycatchers, pewees usually don’t come to feeders. They may visit wooded backyards or property adjacent to patches of forests or woodlands.
- Cool Facts
- When several flycatcher species live in the same forest, the Eastern Wood-Pewee tends to forage higher in the trees than the Least and Acadian flycatchers, but lower than the Great Crested Flycatcher.
- The Eastern Wood-Pewee’s lichen-covered nest is so inconspicuous that it often looks like a knot on a branch.
- The Eastern Wood-Pewee and Western Wood-Pewee have different calls but are nearly impossible to tell apart by eye. Their breeding ranges overlap in a very narrow zone in the Great Plains. Researchers have found no evidence that the two species interbreed in that area.
- The oldest recorded Eastern Wood-Pewee was at least 8 years, 2 months old when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Maryland in 2010.